A meticulous study of Donald Trump’s biography, statements, and policy “positions” will reveal no hint of political direction. It’s not that Trump is contradictory or incoherent. He’s ideologically formless. His claim to business competence is nullified by inherited wealth and several bankruptcies. His supposed nationalism consists of complaining about countries in which he has invested his own money (“I love China, but…”). He’s going to make America great again – yet that’s a wish, not a program. A run at the US presidency has been concocted out of a disorganized bundle of will and desire.That's Martin Gurri. The essay at the link is long. It's also really good. I recommend it. One more taste:
A candidate deprived of direction can only drift on the stream of public opinion. Or to flip that around: the dizzying rise of Trump can best be understood as the political assertion of a newly energized public. Trump has been chosen by this public, for reasons I’ll have cause to examine, and he is the visible effect, not the cause, of this public’s surly and mutinous mood. To make him into an American Hitler or a world-historical figure of any sort, let me suggest, would be to distort reality as on a funhouse mirror.
The right level of analysis on Trump isn’t Trump, but the public that endows him with a radical direction and temper, and the decadent institutions that have been too weak to stand in his way.
In American politics, Trump is a peacock among dull buzzards. That should be apparent to anyone with eyes to see. The one discernible theme of his life has been the will to stand out: to attract all eyes in the room by being the loudest, most colorful, most aggressively intrusive person there. He has clearly succeeded. The data above speaks to a world-class talent for self-promotion. The media noticed, and just kept the cameras aimed at the extravagant performance – allowing Trump to represent himself to the public, a rare commodity for a politician. And the public, in its mood of negation, its hostility to the established order, also noticed. Trump lacked a political past. He was glamorous and a winner – he looked different and acted different.Hit the link.
He also sounded different from other politicians. The most significant factor separating Trump from the pack, I believe, is rhetorical. Trump is a master of the nihilist style of the web. His competitors speak in political jargon and soaring generalities. He speaks in rant. He attacks, insults, condemns, doubles down on misstatements, never takes a step back, never apologizes. Everyone he dislikes is a liar, “a bimbo,” “bought and paid for.” Without batting an eyelash, he will compare an opponent to a child molester. Such rhetorical aggression is shocking in mainstream American politics but an everyday occurrence on the political web, where death threats and rape threats against a writer are a measure of the potency of the message.
The “angry voter” Trump supposedly has connected with is really an avatar of the mutinous public: and this is its language. It too speaks in rant, inchoate expression of a desire to remake the world by smashing at it, common parlance of the political war-bands that populate Tumblr, Gawker, reddit, and so many other online platforms. By embracing Trump in significant numbers, the public has signaled that it is willing to impose the untrammeled relations of social media on the US electoral process.
I’m amazed by the rapidity with which this moment has arrived: that we have come to it, however, will surprise no one who has been paying attention.